Thursday, October 14, 2010

The God of small things

Gratitude... goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. -Henri J. M. Nouwen

One of the hardest things I thought God would ever ask me to do was move from Maryland back to Ohio in March of 2008. During that time I read all the stories in the Old Testament about the Israelites and how they were always wandering, pitching the next tent, looking for the manna and longing for the promised land. They complained a lot too. Forgetting the mercies of God they often focused on the pain and unsettledness of their lives instead of God's faithfulness. I had begun a gratitude journey in 1999, but it was in the spring of 2008 I made it a deeper discipline to try to give thanks in everything and count it all joy. I admit I have lost my way these last months. I cringe when loved ones remind me of all that has gone right when it still feels so wrong.

We are "home." Discharge was brutal. The ride in the car with Danica was horrible. Every bump in the road was like a knife in her neck. Her pain meds wore off, and we had to wait to fill her prescriptions when we got home. I finally could not bear to hear her scream so I took her out of her car seat (GASP) and held her on a pillow on my lap the rest of the way home. She was so uncomfortable when we got here to my parent's house. Around 2 am Dan and I held her down while she screamed and got some oxycodone in her, and she finally rested until morning. I laid there awake and prayed.

This morning she woke up happy. She ate orange rolls and watched cartoons in bed. My mom came home from school for a few hours so Dan and I could go get her other prescriptions compounded and grab some things we needed from our house. I went up to my room and crawled into my bed for a total of five minutes and cried my eyes out. Then I spent the next hours cleaning up and packing bags. I drove back here by myself so Dan could get groceries and pick up the medicine. I had the windows down and the cool fall air and sunshine hit my face. I saw the gorgeous foliage which had appeared while we were away. I was reminded His grace is everywhere. He is the God of small things.

When I walked into the door here Danica was up in her wheelchair. She had pooped again (this is important news post surgery and after being on so many narcotics.) She had been cutting with scissors and painting and watching the construction team build a new house behind my parent's home out the big windows. I brought some of her favorite toys, and she played with her Squinkies and Strawberry Shortcake dolls for over an hour. Small things. When Dan got back with Danica's muscle relaxer she fell asleep, and I was able to take a long hot shower and wash away the rest of the hospital "feeling" and shave my legs. Small things.

Dan and I read the book Somewhere More Holy by Tony Woodlief the week before Danica's surgery. It made a huge impact on both of us. In the last chapter he writes, "We have forgotten the God of small things, which is mostly what He has been with us because we ourselves are small, fragile things. We wait impatiently, sometimes hopelessly, for the burning-bush God, or the booming thunderclap God, forgetting that even a righteous man like Job covered before the whirlwind of God's voice, that holy Moses could bear only a glimpse of God's backside. We assume that we would hold up well against a visitation by the whirlwind God, and in our narcissistic longing we forget the God of the still, small voice, the suffering-servant God, the God who said of children that his kingdom consists of such as these. "Part of the inner world of everyone," writes Frederick Buechner, "is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God's voice makes in a world that has explained him away. In such a world, I suspect that God maybe speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him."" I used the word "hell" a couple times in the last 10 days. I know this to be a curse word and also mean a complete separation from God. When I said it I did not do so lightly. There were times when I felt God was not there. But today in the light and breeze and yielding to the vagabond life God is giving us I know He was speaking to me clearly, and He never left me.

The next few posts will be dedicated to the graces of the last weeks and dwell in gratitude. Not in a blowing sunshine when it's still so dark kind of way, but in discipline and in remembrance of how faithful and good God is. Thank you for praying for us. These days hold no true shape and we need help minute by minute to keep on. You bless us.


  1. Weeping, friend. There are no words, but I know you can hear my heart.

  2. Still praying. I am so glad you are " home".

  3. I just read this from Oswald Chambers concerning God's silences: "God's silences are His answers...Can God trust you...or are you still asking for a visible answer?...His silence is the sign that He is bringing you into a marvelous understanding of Himself...You will find that God has trusted you in the most intimate way possible, with an absolute silence, not of despair, but of pleasure...If God has given you a silence, praise Him, He is bringing you into the great run of His purposes...A wonderful thing about God's become perfectly confident....His silence is the proof that He has [heard you]...If Jesus Christ is bringing you into the understanding that prayer is for the glorifying of His Father, He will give you the first sign of His intimacy - silence."

    It's only as our days "hold no true shape and we need help minute by minute" that we will continually throw ourselves upon Him. This is exactly the place of intimacy and delight that He desires for us. Then and then only can you truly thank Him through the most difficult times.

  4. Thank you Monica for being so transparent and sharing your heart. It helps me know better how to pray for you. God has made you a beautiful woman. We love you, Chris

  5. Monica
    Do not feel badly for your feelings. It too felt this way while at the RMH in NY. I struggled because I wanted to be home. Brooke was in pain but we could not get the pain meds in. She would also just scream. This is not an easy journey we are on. I try to stay away from the question why God. It never seems productive. But sometimes as i listen to her scream in pain, the tears just flow from me. I can't help but want to take away every last bit of pain from her. Then I listen to her prayesrs to God. She prays for others and asks for their pain to be taken away, she never asks for herself. I am humbled! I am praying for you all!!!!

  6. I haven't read through your entire blog yet, but I found you through Kelly Stamps' blog. My 7 year old son also has Chiari. He was decompressed in Aug. 2008 at the age of 4 1/2. Just this past summer he had to have tethered spinal cord surgery. I'm not sure what kind of support group you have, but if you'd like to someone who has walked a similar path, please let me know. email is bcobb at cfl dot rr dot com

  7. I'm not sure I posted my email I'm doing it again it is bcobb2 at cfl dot rr dot com

  8. (from a friend of Angie's)
    Praying Psalm 6 & 7 for you to a God who promises to hear and deliver you.

    I was reminded by David Powlison this week of the words of "How Firm a Foundation."

    FEAR NOT, I am with you.
    Fear not, I am with you.
    Fear not, I am WITH you.
    Fear not, I am with YOU.